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MacKinnon in for Duchene on Avalanche top line

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- With Colorado Avalanche Matt Duchene out of the lineup for roughly four weeks, rookie Nathan MacKinnon will be the center of attention Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.

The 18-year-old moves into the top center spot vacated by Duchene, who sustained a knee injury on his first shift Saturday against the San Jose Sharks when he collided with linemate Jamie McGinn.

MacKinnon leads all NHL rookies in goals (23), assists (33) and points (56). On Tuesday he'll be in the middle with Ryan O'Reilly to his left and McGinn at right wing.

Center is the natural position for MacKinnon, who has spent most of the season at right wing after being selected by the Avalanche with the first pick of the 2013 NHL Draft.

"I'm comfortable at center," MacKinnon said. "I'm comfortable at wing as well. Down the road I might end up back at wing. We'll see how it goes [Tuesday]. Hopefully we can create some early chemistry and play pretty well."

In another change in the wake of Duchene's injury, third-line right wing John Mitchell will move up to play with center Paul Stastny and left wing Gabriel Landeskog on the second line

"We have a number of wingers and centers who can play both positions," Stastny said. "We can move guys around and spread it out over three lines. That's helped out a lot."

Duchene had career-best 70 points when he was injured. His loss is one of many for the Avalanche at various points of the season, including forwards Alex Tanguay, who is out for the season with a hip injury, and PA Parenteau, who has been out for 19 games with a knee injury.

"We've had injuries, like probably a lot of teams in our League, but it brought a lot of confidence in our players because we were capable of continuing to win hockey games," coach Patrick Roy said.

The Blue Jackets will have goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and right wing Jared Boll back in the lineup.

Bobrovsky has missed the past eight periods because of the flu but said he was ready to go after the morning skate.

"He had a big smile on his face," coach Todd Richards said. "He seems excited to play a big game [Tuesday]."

Boll, out since Nov. 22 because of left ankle surgery, replaces Nathan Horton, who is out with a lower-body injury.

"We've been playing well of late. I want to come in and help any way I can," Boll said. "I'm definitely going out there to be physical but I'm not looking for a fight."

Here are the projected lineups for the Avalanche and Blue Jackets:


Ryan O'Reilly - Nathan MacKinnon - Jamie McGinn

Gabriel Landeskog - Paul Stastny - John Mitchell

Cody McLeod - Marc-Andre Cliche - Maxime Talbot

Patrick Bordeleau - Brad Malone - Paul Carey

Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson

Nick Holden - Tyson Barrie

Cory Sarich - Nate Guenin

Semyon Varlamov

Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Scratched: Reto Berra, Andre Benoit, Ryan Wilson

Injured: PA Parenteau (knee), Alex Tanguay (hip surgery), Matt Duchene (knee)


Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Boone Jenner - Ryan Johansen - Mark Letestu

Nick Foligno - Artem Anisimov - Corey Tropp

Blake Comeau - Derek MacKenzie - Jared Boll

Fedor Tyutin - James Wisniewski

Jack Johnson - Dalton Prout

Nikita Nikitin - David Savard

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: RJ Umberger, Nick Schultz, Matt Frattin, Tim Erixon

Injured: Ryan Murray (knee), Nathan Horton (lower body)

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